Monday, October 24, 2005

Money Matters and Dating

I always dread meeting with my language partner. This has nothing to do with him. He's really nice, and very helpful for my improvement in Chinese, slow as it may be. Rather, I dread the meetings because I'm horribly nervous speaking Chinese. Outside of a classroom situation, I'm terrified to speak. As I explained to James, I feel like people are a little angry already from being busy, and I don't want to further anger them with my bad pronunciation and confused grammar. I don't think people here get as much exposure to nonstandard pronunciation as someone in the states may get. James agreed. I was happy that I could explain clearly, because it was a Chinese-speaking day, and I have a hard time expressing myself.

As we were discussing this, James said, "You know what, though? I think today I am more nervous than you. Do you know why?"

"You're more nervous than I am? That's impossible. Why are you nervous?"

"Because my girlfriend is sitting behind you."

"Oh, does she not know that you're helping me with Chinese?" I asked.

"No, she does. She's just easily jealous, like most Chinese girls."

And that is what launched us into our conversation about how dating works here. This is a topic I've been curious about as there seems to be no information readily accessible. A few of my friends have Chinese girls interested in them, and they also don't seem exactly sure how everything works. Furthermore, relationships are a common thread in all cultures, and it interests me to see how different ones handle them.

"Oh, you think they're easily jealous?"

"Definitely. And easily angered, too," he said.

At this point, I told him about how I got the feeling that I was the target of some hostile feelings from Chinese girls who like Donny for how often they see me with him, regardless of how many times it's been said that I have a boyfriend, and that he isn't Donny. James laughed and said that he wasn't surprised.

"It can be very difficult to date a Chinese girl. This week, I didn't call my girlfriend for two days. Then, when I called her, she yelled at me for not calling. I didn't think two days was such a long time. I, I..." He pulled an imaginary phone away from his ear and looked at it partially confused and partially disgusted.

I laughed and told him that there is probably a good number of girls like that in the states, too, though I hope that the number of more reasonable ones is growing. Then we started talking about how guys "fix their screwups" in both countries. I told him that sometimes guys buy flowers when they think they're in trouble. He said that it isn't the case in China.

"We don't buy flowers here. We invite the girl over and cook her dinner, and then we apologize profusely. 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.'"

"Haha, wow. That's alot of work, James."

"Dating is alot of work. In China, girls are here," he said, and held one hand above the table. "And guys are here," he said, and held the other hand at half that distance. "Girls have all the power."

"Really? Some people still say that men are in control."

"Men are not in control. We have to pay for everything, or else the girl will get mad at us. We have to pay for dinner, and when we go out, and for the dinners when we make them mad, and for expensive gifts for them. Oh, if we don't buy them expensive gifts, they get mad. And then, if you get married, it's even worse! I have to pay for the wedding ceremony and reception. Do you know how expensive that is? It's twenty-thousand! Ten-thousand for one that is not good. And then I have to pay for wherever we live, and how am I ever going to find a job where I can do that? I have to give my parents money, too!"

I thought the poor boy was going to have a breakdown. This is the kind of thing I could hear about all I wanted in the states, but it took watching his eyes nearly bug out of his head for me to understand the kind of pressure that he's under. He kept trying to restrain the panic in his voice so his girlfriend wouldn't hear him, but he was really worked up.

"Doesn't the girl help with paying at all?"

"Maybe I pay 80 percent of the living place, and she pays 20. Maybe. I don't want to get married!"

I'd be interested to see how many other Chinese guys agree with his opinions. I get the feeling that it might be alot after having observed a good number of Chinese couples. Granted, I'm an outsider, and I'm still very ignorant on this cultural issue, but from that perspective, it seems like girls are whining at their boyfriends for small issues, and these guys are spending a good amount of time placating them. I actually videotaped this yesterday so I could watch it again to see if I still agreed with my initial assessment. I'm very aware that there are plenty of cases that aren't like this at all, but you've got to admit that this kind is going to be the most noticeable (read: audible, especially when you're sitting in the cafeteria trying to do your homework and there's a tantrum complete with kicking and pounding fists on the table going on next to you.).


At 9:29 PM, Blogger Disenchanted Dave said...

From what you described, it seems like, at most, what you're talking about is a difference of degree. Girls definitely have a lot of power over guys here, and I suspect that if they don't throw tantrums like you described, it's mostly because they don't have to; their power has been cemented better than Chinese girls' has, and they can be more subtle. But a lot of guys here definitely dread marriage and spend a lot of time groveling.

It's still really interesting. I wonder why your partner felt that Chinese girls were worse? Compared to what?

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Teacher Tong said...

There is no "getting to know you" dating in China. Once you become girl-friend/boy friend, it is assumed you will get married. 要是吹的话,很丢脸。不管国家政策只生一个好,lots of young people don't want kids now.


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